cover image To & Fro

To & Fro

Leah Hager Cohen. Bellevue Literary, $18.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-954276-25-3

Cohen (Strangers and Cousins) offers a playful and provocative tête-bêche novel with each half devoted to a different young girl searching for a sense of belonging. The fairy tale–like first entry, “To,” is narrated by wide-eyed Ani, who engages in various “leave-takings” from her home and eventually goes for a long bike ride. Along her journey, she encounters a fussy kitten who becomes her companion and travels with a mysterious ferryman. Readers are then invited to flip the book over to “Fro,” a comparatively more grounded narrative. Annamae lives in Manhattan with her mother and brother Danny. She’s surrounded by loving adults, including her nana, her uncle Hersh (who’s not really an uncle), and her aunt Marni, but, like Ani, she seeks an understanding confidant. In an author’s note, Cohen says she doesn’t favor either narrative as a starting point, and each story reverberates in the other, leaving readers to sense Ani in Annamae’s longing for a friend and Annamae as the target of Ani’s directionless wandering. Cohen’s graceful exercise is worth a spin. Agent: Barney Karpfinger, Karpfinger Agency. (May)